Goodbye Mailbox: A Short List of my Favorite Sketches from The State

state1Over the last year, I have written a number of articles about the music I’ve spent my life listening to, poking and prodding and digging around to see how it all affected me, how it made me grow as a person, how it helped me, defined me, or influenced my life and personality. There was a lot to sift through, but it was a joy to revisit and re-experience it all again. And now that musical nostalgia highway has got me thinking about other aspects of me that the pop culture I grew up with molded like so much clay. Like my sense of humor. Where did that come from?

Sure, the most obvious choice is my parents. My dad could be a goofball, and my mom is often a smartass, and that explains a lot about who I am, but there are certainly other influences too, indelible proof that pop culture and comedy have weighed in on what I think is funny. Picking three, I’d say that Weird Al Yankovic, the first nine seasons of The Simpsons, and the short lived, but cult favorite sketch comedy show, The State had more pull than anything else.

This article is about that last one.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I think The State is the best sketch comedy show that has ever aired. You can keep your Saturday Night Live, your Kids in the Hall, your Upright Citizens Brigade, I will forever be content with the four short seasons of the funniest show ever broadcast on a music-themed cable network. Maybe it’s because I was 14/15/16 years old when the program was on TV, and maybe that put me at an age when I was just way more susceptible to the influence of pop culture, namely music, television, and film, but The State just hit me…and it hit me hard. With the exception of The Simpsons, I probably reference it in everyday conversation more than any other TV show or movie that I’ve seen or committed to memory in the vast recesses of unused brain cells in the back of my head. You’ve got to remember the important stuff, right?

So here are my favorite 10 sketches from The State. If you are a fan, enjoy, and let me know if I’ve made any glaring omissions. If you’ve never seen the show, I implore you to go out and remedy that immediately.

 
10. “Taco Man”
This sketch may just be about something as stupid as a mailman who delivers tacos instead of your mail, but it’s the delivery by the actors, Kevin Allison’s amiable and then defeated mailman and Michael Ian Black’s passive-aggressive and unnecessarily intense taco recipient, that make this premise land as well as it does. Throw in a little surrealism at sketch’s end, and some complete randomness, and I’m just done.

Quotables: “You don’t want to eat that crap.” “Goodbye mailbox.”

9. “Service with a Smile”
Full confession, I totally ripped this bit off for a video taped chemistry project in the 10th grade. The story of two fast food employees, Carl, the quiet and Droopy Dog-expressioned constant victim of coworker Steve’s increasing rage and menace never fails to make me giggle…even if it’s just a bunch of screaming.

Quotables: “CHICKEN SANDWICH CARL!” “Poor little Carl…with the puppy dog eyes!”

8. “Blueberry Johnson”
Michael Showalter plays a children’s television show producer who wants to get in front of the camera for once. He’s sphere-shaped, has blue hair, and talks in a high, squeaky voice. The network executives think he’s better suited for work behind the camera.

Quotables: “I! LOOK LIKE! A BLUE! BERRY!” “I’m a freak of nature Bruce!”

7. “Mind Match”
Game show bits are a sketch comedy staple, and it can take something really special to make it feel fresh. So, we have a game show where all the prizes are orphans. And neither one of the contestants want to take any orphans home with them. The looks that Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney give to each other are priceless.

Quotables: “Wooden?” “Bears? The Rolling Bears?”

6. “Bologna Foot”
This sketch is the story of a high school kid who was born with bologna sandwiches for feet. I don’t think any more explanation is needed.

Quotables: “Fellas will call him ‘bologna-for-feet,’ or ‘sandwich-feet,’ or ‘penis-face.’” “If you had half the heart he does, you’d be All-State by now!”

The Barry Lutz Show

The Barry Lutz Show

5. “The Barry Lutz Show”
There is something so funny about the way Thomas Lennon says the phrase “monkey torture” in this sketch. He stresses the wrong syllables, and it just sounds so weird, and the effect is marvelous. His slightly condescending doctor character plays off fantastically with Michael Ian Black’s hammy talk show host, and there’s just something so absurd (and hilarious) about psychological monkey torture.

Quotables: “If that had been the ASPCA and not my friend Terry calling from backstage.” “Get a monkey…and torture the hell out of it.”

4. “Cerealist Commercial”
This sketch may be the stupidest thing ever committed to tape. It’s a surreal cereal commercial where every character makes a dumb face and speaks entirely in “duhs.” It makes me laugh every single time…even just thinking about it. I don’t know what that says about me, and I don’t care.

Quotables: “Duh!” “Duh duh duh duh duh duh.”

3. “The Jew, The Italian, and The Redhead Gay”
The musical numbers on The State were always a lot of fun, and this sketch about three walking, talking stereotypes (David Wain as the Jew, Ken Marino as the Italian, and Kevin Allison as the redhead gay) living together on Avenue A is just silly perfection. The theme song is meant to stay in your head forever.

Quotables: “I guess I’ll go eat a bagel or something.” “We each see the world in our own way…the Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay!”

2. “Louie and The Last Supper”
Ken Marino’s Louie was a recurring character that was meant to make fun of recurring television characters that just say their catchphrases over and over again. In this instance, the phrase was “I want to dip my balls in it.” It was a funny bit, but carried with it the tendency to get old really quick, as was the point. This later turn with Louie visiting Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper worked so well because the initial setup of the sketch does not give any indication that it’s a Louie sketch, so that when the reveal is made, it’s unexpected and funny as hell. And you just can’t beat Ben Garant as Judas and Thomas Lennon as Jesus.

Quotables: “What? He’s funny!” “I love Louie. I love everyone. That’s my thing man.”

1. “Porcupine Racetrack”
A musical about the goings on at a porcupine racetrack. This was probably the biggest sketch The State ever attempted. The production is big. The set pieces, costumes, and sound design are big. The whole thing is just a grand affair…an absurd and silly grand affair. All comedy sketches, and musicals for that matter, should be this fun.

Quotables: “I know that I’m a sinner, but I really need a winner, or the orphanage will close.” “I’m the slowest porcupine in town.”

 
It was ridiculously hard to make this list (but also a lot of fun). I had to leave out so much good stuff: Doug, Barry and Levon, The Bearded Men of Space Station 11, but I stand by my choices.

A DVD set of the series came out a few years ago. I think it may be time for a binge viewing.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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